Breach of club rules costs Alker captaincy of Salford

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Salford have stripped their long-serving hooker, Malcolm Alker, of the captaincy after late-night breaches of club discipline at their training camp in Florida.

Other players have been fined for their roles in breaking the club's curfew in Jacksonville, but the football director, Steve Simms, denied that the incidents were a setback for their plans less than three weeks before their first game back in Super League.

"The training has been outstanding. This is an internal matter that is now done and dusted and everyone has been informed of what they need to be," he said.

Alker, who first played for the Reds's first team in 1997, is the club's longest-serving professional, captain for the past few seasons and a local hero.

Despite his demotion, he played in last night's friendly at Widnes, under the captaincy of the newly-signed Rob Parker. A permanent appointment will be made by their coach, Shaun McRae, later this week, with Robbie Paul an obvious candidate.

Salford revealed that the decision to sack Alker came after his involvement in what the club referred to as "a number of minor incidents". A club statement said: "A small number of players have been found to have broken club rules."

Celtic Crusaders, the other club promoted to Super League this year, have also suffered a disruption to their preparations.

The Welsh side were due to play their only pre-season friendly at Harlequins tomorrow night, but the pitch at The Stoop will not be fit after heavy rainfall and three recent rugby union games. That means they must go straight into their first Super League game at Leeds on 6 February without any warm-up.

"This isn't the ideal preparation for us by any means," Anthony Seibold the Crusaders' football manager, said. "But we are now setting our sights fully on the Leeds Rhinos match."